Fwd [GLW}: SOUTH AFRICA: Who is bringing the SACP's name into disrepute?
alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Aug 20 06:49:44 MDT 2000
The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly
SOUTH AFRICA: Who is bringing the SACP's name into disrepute?
BY NORM DIXON
The chairperson of the Johannesburg Central branch of the South African
Communist Party (SACP), Dale McKinley, was officially notified of his
expulsion from the party on August 16. He was accused of having publicly
``attacked'' the SACP ``whilst simultaneously contradicting, in public,
[the party's] own publicly stated positions''. This was ``a serious
offence'', stated the SACP's charge sheet, and brought ``the name of the
SACP into disrepute''.
The SACP head office went on to accuse McKinley of violating the clauses in
the SACP constitution that state, ``Every member has a duty, in his or her
personal conduct, to act in a manner which will bring credit to the SACP
and to be a standard bearer of the highest communist ethic and morality''
and ``All South Africans ... who accept the programme and policy of the
South African Communist Party, undertake to carry out its decisions and to
be active in an SACP structure and pay whatever dues are decided on, are
eligible for membership''.
The charges laid against McKinley were in response to articles analysing
South African political developments -- especially concentrating on the
African National Congress (ANC) government's pro-capitalist economic
policies and the response of South Africa's labour movement and left --
written for Green Left Weekly (see #405, May 17, at
<http://jinx.sistm.unsw.edu.au/~greenlft/2000/405/405p22.htm>> and #392,
February 9, at
Africa's Weekly Mail and Guardian and the British socialist newspaper Fight
Racism, Fight Imperialism.
As McKinley pointed out in his reply to the charges, the articles were
written ``in the socialist tradition of robust and polemical debate'' and
were based on ``political arguments and economic perspectives that are
consistent with being a revolutionary communist''.
McKinley's articles put into practice the SACP's constitutional ``guiding
principles'', which state that members of the party ``will work to end the
system of capitalist exploitation in South Africa and to establish a
socialist society based on the common ownership of, participation in, and
control by the producers of the key means of production'' and ``organise,
educate and lead the working class in the struggle for socialism''.
In the more immediate sense, McKinley's articles and activities were
clearly in line with the SACP's oft-stated opposition to the ANC
government's neo-liberal Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR)
economic policy and its drive to privatise state assets.
McKinley's disbelief was palpable when he wrote: ``At a time when the
forces of the working class are faced with the most concerted and expansive
attack from the political and economic representatives of capitalism, it is
simply incomprehensible why the SACP leadership would launch a crudely
crafted attack on an SACP member and leader for offering open and honest
,Ocritical contributions that seek to take forward and strengthen
``This is even more so, when, at the same time, there are innumerable and
incontestable examples of leading SACP members who have engaged (and
continue to do so) in activities and/or public interventions that are in
direct contradiction to the SACP's own political program and principles ...
``It would now appear that the growing gap between the `aims' and `guiding
principles' as contained in the SACP constitution (or of the SACP's
political program as adopted by the 10th Congress) and the
activities/interventions [of SACP government ministers] are of little or no
concern to the SACP leadership. If this were the case, then surely
disciplinary charges would have, by now, been brought against those
``Instead, the first disciplinary hearing convened by the SACP Politburo in
quite some time is now directed against someone who has taken the SACP's
political program and organisational principles seriously enough to engage
in the necessary polemics and intellectual endeavours of class struggle.''
Ministers of privatisation
In between the charges being laid against McKinley (July 25) and the SACP
central committee's ratification of the disciplinary committee's
recommendation that McKinley be expelled (August 12-13), the role of senior
SACP leaders in the implementation of the government's capitalist agenda
again hit the headlines.
On August 10, public enterprises minister Jeff Radebe -- an SACP central
committee member -- announced the government's plans to speed up the
privatisation of government assets. South Africa's major state-owned assets
-- the electricity utility Eskom, Transnet (which operates the railways,
ports and South African Airways), telecommunications provider Telkom and
arms maker Denel -- are being restructured and corporatised in preparation
for full or partial privatisation by 2004.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on August 10 attacked
the government's ``cavalier'' approach to the job losses involved as
``unacceptable''. COSATU said that household electricity tariffs are likely
to increase by 50% after privatisation and that the railways are being
restructured so as to separate profitable and unprofitable components, with
the aim of selling the former and closing the latter. ``How can these
proposals be considered developmental?'', COSATU asked.
The South African National Non-Governmental Organisation denounced the
plans on August 11. SANGOCO director Abie Ditlhake said the ANC's mandate
to reverse the ills of ``apartheid capitalism'' were being trampled on. He
described the ``current threat to reverse hard-won workers' rights''
contained in proposed labour law amendments as ``testimony'' to the
anti-worker trend and said that GEAR had not only ``failed to eradicate
poverty, but most importantly, it has actually created poverty and deepened
inequalities. It is, in effect, a program of redistributing wealth from the
poor to the rich.''
Radebe was unfazed by the criticism: ``Restructuring remains an important
plank in the government's overall economic program. We have the political
will and the commitment ... and the ability to achieve our goals'', he
Prominent SACP members sit in the ANC cabinet and, without exception, have
approved every anti-worker policy in defiance of SACP resolutions and
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has appointed SACP members to key
cabinet posts responsible for implementing the government's conservative
economic policy. The ANC cabinet contains at least seven SACP ministers.
Dozens of SACP members sit among the ANC's MPs in the national parliament.
It is SACP policy that members elected on ANC lists must abide by the
discipline of the ANC.
SACP central committee members holding portfolios include: trade and
industry minister Alec Erwin; public service and administration minister
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi; public enterprises minister Jeff Radebe;
minister for water and forestry Ronnie Kasrils; minister for provincial and
local government Sydney Mufamadi; and minister for the Office of the
President Essop Pahad.
Three of the SACP's top office bearers -- party chairperson Charles Nqakula
(who is also Mbeki's parliamentary councillor), deputy chairperson
Fraser-Moleketi and deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin -- are ANC MPs.
(Kasrils and Cronin were members of the disciplinary committee that
recommended McKinley's expulsion to a central committee heavily influenced
by ANC ministers, MPs and office bearers.)
On August 24 last year, more than 800,000 public servants struck and
570,000 strikers and supporters participated in marches and pickets across
South Africa. It was largest strike since the demise of apartheid.
The national strike resulted from Fraser-Moleketi's steadfast refusal to
alter seriously the government's below-inflation wage offer. She threatened
to deduct any wage increase that was won from the education and health
services budget. In a significant defeat for South African workers,
``Comrade minister'' Fraser-Moleketi imposed the government's settlement on
Erwin is an architect of GEAR and, with finance minister Trevor Manuel, is
in charge of the government's economic policy, including the massive
restructuring of the economy in the name of ``international
competitiveness''. This has resulted in more than 500,000 jobs being lost
The most recent example of the failure of the SACP members in government to
oppose the ANC's anti-worker policies was cabinet's approval on July 26 of
amendments to labour laws that will scrap overtime pay for Sunday work,
increase ordinary working time, allow existing basic conditions to be
eroded and make it easier to sack new workers.
COSATU's demand that employers be made to negotiate with unions before mass
sacking can proceed was ignored -- despite 4 million workers joining an
SACP-backed COSATU general strike on May 10 to demand this. COSATU
described the changes as the most serious attack on hard-won workers'
rights and gains since the  attempt by P.W. Botha's [apartheid]
regime to roll back workers' rights.
Flying in the face of workers' and residents' opposition to the
ANC-dominated Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council's iGoli 2002
privatisation program, the SACP on August 11 pledged its full support for
the ANC in the November 1 local government elections. This stance means
that the SACP will campaign for Johannesburg's privatisers against
anti-iGoli 2002 candidates, such as Trevor Ngwane, a charismatic left-wing
councillor thrown out of the ANC after he opposed the plan.
On August 7, Gauteng provincial premier (and SACP central committee member)
Mbhazima (Sam) Shilowa said that anti-privatisation candidates in
Johannesburg would play into the hands of the opposition. He added that
the ANC needed candidates able to implement unpopular but necessary
These actions and statements raise the question: Is it McKinley or certain
SACP leaders who are bringing the SACP's name into disrepute among South
Africa's militant working class?
McKinley's conclusion is blunt: More than anything else, the political and
organisational approach that informs the content and character of the
charges will, if taken to their logical conclusion, eventually destroy the
SACP. The national leadership of the SACP must decide now, whether an SACP
made-up of an organisationally cowed, ideologically confused and
politically unprincipled membership is what they want to nurture and lead.
If this is what the SACP becomes, then, just like so many other communist
parties, it too will gradually slip into political and practical oblivion.
Go to Green Left Weekly's South Africa Archive page for other articles on
developments in South Africa. Click here for Dale McKinley's GLW articles.
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